Monday, May 17, 2010



If a good night of gaming has you sitting around a table debating a topic which can at times be a bit heavy, well The Ten Commandments might be for you.
The game seems to be targeted at a party group, accommodating three-to-eight players.
The game theme though is one which is both a bit heavy, and not necessarily everyone’s idea of a fun topic to discuss over a game.
The box explains the game.
“The Ten Commandments, the word of God ... they have served as a guide for humanity for thousands of years. Still, even the greatest works can stand to be updated from time to time! In the game of Ten Commandments, you provide those edits. Play as the militant Crusader, the loving Midwife, the pious Healer, or dozens of other factions, each struggling to create a new set of Ten Commandments in line with their own desires.
“Negotiate, cajole, and convince your fellow players to support the Commandments you favour. Each faction has a hidden agenda ... Can you predict what your opponents are striving for? Or will they best you in the quest to re-write the Ten Commandements?”
If religion is not your idea of something to tackle at a party, or boardgame night, this is one to pass on right now.
The game is designed by Dan Tibbles, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff, and is a recent release coming out in 2009 from Bucephalus Games.
Like all games from Bucephalus Games, The Ten Commandments comes in a sturdy box, which is economical in size.
The game relies exclusively on cards, and player debate and negotiation, which is a departure from relying on dice luck. That said, debates can become rather tedious in a game environment rather quickly.
The theme and game design also limits the replay ability of the game, especially with the same group. Re-debating the same thing is simply boring.
This is a game which with the right group might have one time appeal, but that is not enough to suggest buying it.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 12, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- COLDSNAP


The Canadian Football League season is still a couple of months from starting, but in Saskatchewan we always seem to be thinking football since the Roughriders are the only professional sports franchise in the province.
And, locally this week we are all thinking Roughriders since Yorkton is making its push to be the community officially named ‘Riderville’. As a side note make sure you take in the range of events around the local effort being held this week and help bring the designation to Yorkton.
So, with football in mind, why not look at a game which looks to mimic football, and specifically Canadian football, which we all know is better than that version south of the 49th parallel.
Cold Snap: The Canadian Pro Football Simulation Board Game is a newcomer to the rather diverse field of football-themed board games. It was released only last year from Plaay Games, a company with a growing list of sports-themed simulation games.
To start with, a nice aspect of Cold Snap is its solitaire feature. That is always a plus since it’s not always easy to find a football boardgame partner. Of course it also plays head-to-head as a two-player game as well.
The game does have player stats for CFL teams and players, although I don’t see a CFL logo on the box, so it may not be ‘officially authorized’.
Like most ‘sims’ this one relies on dice and a plethora of charts. Strat-o-Matic games are like that too, and while immediately a bit daunting, with an expectation they might be boring, you tend to learn the outcome of common dice rolls rather quickly, and knowing the natural ebb and flow of the real game helps too.
That said Cold Snap has a rather extensive game coil-bound ‘Game Book’. The coil binding is nice since you will be referring to the book extensively.
The Cold Snap results book is also very detailed. As the company website explains the book details whether an incompletion “was the result of great coverage by a defensive back, a hurried throw thanks to a missed block by an offensive lineman, a wrong pass route run by the receiver, or any of a multitude of other possible reasons.”
The PLAAY.COM website sums up the game this way: “You call the plays, you set the defensive alignments, you decide who to bring in when a star player goes down with an injury. Think you can do a better job with your favourite Canadian pro team than the real-life coach did? Well, now you can find out.”
The manufacturer notes that Cold Snap takes a slightly different view of a football sim, by giving every player on the field individuality.
“First this is a pro football game where every player on the field matters. In many other games, defenders and linemen are treated almost as an afterthought--some games don't even rate them at all! But in Cold Snap, the success or failure of a play most often hinges on the performance of these players! Yes, the star Canadian passers and runners will stand out on your table-top, but so will the star interior linemen, linebackers and defensive backs!” states the website.
In spite of the detail, the mechanics here are pretty easy. The offense chooses a ball carrier or intended receiver for one of six basic offense plays, while the defence coach secretly decides on one of four basic color-coded defence settings. From there you roll the dice, look up the result in the game book, record the gain or loss, and repeat.
The game is one football fans are going to enjoy. Check it out.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 5, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Tuonela Productions Ltd. is a game production company which seems to specialize in card-based games and Inquisitio, a game designed by Jani Rönkkönen and released in 2009, is one of their stable of games.
A passage from the rulebook explains the game theme rather well.
“It is the year 1609 in Logroño, northern Spain. The Spanish inquisition has undertaken a campaign to root out witchcraft and massive examinations are about to start. You are a suspect. Will you be able to assure the interrogators of your innocence through cunning, resilience and skillful use of bribes? Or will you break under torture and end up being burned at the stake as a witch?
“In Inquisitio players try to balance between enduring the horrors of brutal interrogations and not confessing to too many crimes of witchcraft. The player who manages to avoid being sentenced to the stake and is freed from the dungeon with the best combination of health, sanity and innocence will be the winner.”
In terms of a theme, the witch inquisitions are not a bad one on which to base a game.
But, does it work?
Well let’s start with the cards. For me the card art in a game like this is rather important. You want good aesthetics.
In Inquisitio the art is sort of hit, and miss.
Some, such as ‘relationship with a succubus’ are rather striking, although the use of a lot of background graphics limits the impact because it makes the actual art smaller than it could be.
On other cards the art is good, but they have over done the dark aspect, to the point the cards are simply too black.
Past the assorted cards the game has some small wooden tokens, and the rule set in three languages, and that’s it.
The game plays with three-to-five players, so it’s not a game for a couple. That means it will only come out when you have company for boardgames, which will limit game play options.
The game does require thought in terms of what you do.
Players are basically accused of sins and have to try to keep as much of your sanity and health while being tortured, yet not end up being the one with the most guilt points. Players may limit the damage they take by confessing, but that action gives you more guilt points.
However, as you confess it does also allow you to implicate others as guilty, which may be a wise strategy too.
The game isn’t overly complicated, and plays rather quickly, probably half an hour once you grasp the rules, and depending on the number of players.
Add in the dark theme, and Inquisitio becomes a solid little game to have around.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 21, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Michelangelo sounds like a game that would be tied to the famous painter in some fashion, and it is with players taking on the roles of the famous painters assistants.
Now if that idea just caused you to yawn, well one can’t blame you, the premise of this game is not one which inspires much excitement.
The objective from the rulebook is not much better either. “In this game you will be one of these assistants, splitting your time between Michelangelo’s workshop and the political beehive of Renaissance Italy. You will earn money and points by helping Michelangelo, as well as making connections in some of the most powerful and influential families of the world.”
Heart be still, I am not sure I can stand the anticipation of playing a game with such awe inspiring goals.
The box is nice, but once you get inside, you kind of get a feel for where this game is going. There is a bag full of multi-coloured disks, some which you have to apply stickers to. This is never a particularly pleasing realization in terms of game components because if the game becomes a regular one to play, stickers have a way of lifting at the edges, collecting dust, and ripping off.
There are also small piles of cards to be used in the game, and handy turn reference cards which should frankly be standard in any game.
The game does allow for two-to-five players, so that is a nice feature. A couple can play, or you can invite some friends to participate.
The board is another problem area with the spaces not seeming quite large enough for the aforementioned disks.
The problem here is how to get anyone excited to give the game a spin. “Hi this game allows you play an assistant to a great painter and ...” And you never get to finish the explanation because they are already suggesting you play whist instead.
The game play seems solid enough and has some decisions along the way, although the chaos factor is pretty high.
Not a game that I’d rush out to buy, there are just better ways to invest a boardgaming dollar.
The game is a recent one, debuting only last year (2009) from creators James Ernest and Mike Selinker, and published by Bucephalus Games.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 14, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- FIASCO


It has always interested me how card games evolved down to what we see as a standard deck of cards with the four familiar suits of diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades.
You would tend to think somewhere along the way an alternate approach to a deck of cards would have emerged, and would have become somewhat popular, or well-known.
Well there are alternate decks out there, although to suggest any are widely-known, or popular would be pushing things a fair bit.
One of the biggest issues preventing popularity may well be that most alternate decks are created around a single game idea.
The traditional deck of course holds so much of its popularity because there are literally hundreds of games which have been created to utilize the cards. You get tired of cribbage, the same deck allows you to play whist, or bridge, or so many other popular games.
Which brings us to this week’s game; Fiasco.
“Fiasco is a recently discovered card game thought to date from the Italian Renaissance of the late-1450s. Fiasco distinctively incorporates six suits representing symbols of power and wealth and features the legendary character Fiasco,” stated the publishing company’s website at
The game was published by Canadian David Pubrat, which is always a plus. It’s great to support Canadian game designers.
The game is a relatively new one, being released in 2003.
Pubrat went with a unique deck design, and that in my mind is a plus because it does offer players a different look in a hand of cards.
Players, the game plays from two to six, get to choose from one of six suits including; horses, swords, mandolins, roses, books or treasure chests.
Once you have selected the suit you will pursue, you focus on collecting them all. There are eight cards in each suit. You play high cards to win the pot and accumulate points, although there is an added element here.
While high card generally wins a pot, an opponent can play a Fiasco penalty card. Think of it in the same terms as a trump card in most trick collecting games. The Fiasco card is the 5, and poisons the pot so that the person winning that trick must discard a card from their scoring pile.
The strategy is of course when to play the Fiasco cards, and when to risk your high cards of the suit you are out to collect.
With the Fiasco cards, the deck rolls out at 60-cards.
The game is solid, but what would make the deck more appealing is a few additional game options using the same cards. An alternate game of two using the six-suit deck would quickly broaden its appeal.
Still, an interesting game worth a look for card-players.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 7, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHERPA


There is a somewhat famous line about a mountain climber being asked why they climbed. The answer was something like “because it’s there.”
Now I can’t see I’ve ever understood the sentiment, although one can appreciate the idea of the adventurous nature of humankind to go up a mountain where they can literally touch the clouds, or reach for the gods of old. There is much mysticism and adventure and legend and lore to climbing.
Now most of us are not going to step onto the face of a mountain, let alone the greatest of them all, Mount Everest, first climbed in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, making it one of the more recent triumphs of man over the wonders of nature.
Locally the great mountain has had a lot of interest since David Rodney, formally from Yorkton has twice climbed the mountain.
Now for the rest of us, there is an option to actually climbing the great peak. We can have some fun with an Everest-climbing feel by playing Sherpa.
The premise of the game is pretty simple. A player is responsible for a team of mountaineers whose objective is to reach the top of Everest, and of course ahead of the others in the game.
Players must manage a climb much as is done in real life, establishing supply camps essential to a climb, as well as controlling your human and material resources while facing the dangers of the mountain.
It is in the area of dangers the game does wander into the realm of fantasy as strange creature wanders the mountain, including the Yeti.
I might have stayed with a more realistic approach. The threat of storms, snow blindness, exhaustion, injury, avalanche, running short of supplies and more are all real threats climbing the great mountain. When you look at the list do you really need an abominable snowman?
The game relies heavily on the luck of card draws, although when you do consider how a misstep on Everest can mean death as opposed to success, the climb would seem heavily reliant on luck in real life too.
Game play is by tile placement.
Players have six characters of their color – two sherpas, two guides, and two yaks, along with a corresponding board that shows the characters.
Resource tokens of three types; ice axes, oxygen, and food, are placed on the empty spaces on the character board corresponding with the characters in the party. In game terms yaks can carry three things, sherpas two, and guides one.
Players hold four cards, and the game begins.
From there card play largely determines progress up the mountain, with most decisions rather obvious.
The game has a solid enough premise, but comes up a little light in terms of game play. You expect a bit more if you are really hoping to mimic the tough decisions of climbing Everest.
Sherpa was designed by Marc Beaudoin and first released in 2007 by Magma Éditions ( )

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar. 31, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Sunday, March 28, 2010



Shhhh! If you stand real quiet, and listen real hard right now, you can hear the crack of the bat as it hits a baseball.
It’s spring training in the majors, and locally there is that wishful thinking talk at coffee among some about the return of Western Major Baseball League action.
So, for those needing a baseball fix until the leagues really start to roll, might I suggest Pizza Box Baseball.
Released in 2008, the game is a sister product to Pizza Box Football which came out three years earlier. The football game proved popular, so it was a pretty straight forward development to adapt the game style to another sport.
Both games were designed by Erik and Scott Smith, and are published by On The Line Game Company.
The game gets its name from the box it comes in, which yes looks like a pizza box. Inside is a heavy game board, cards, pegs, rules and scoresheets, all the good stuff to serve up nine innings of fun.
Like any other baseball boardgame I have played, Pizza Box Baseball sets up so the players are pitted against one another, one acting as batter, the other as hitter, with the roles of course reversing throughout the game.
As in the real game on the field, the pitcher has to figure out the best way to approach the hitter to get them out.
The hitter must decide whether to take pitches, go for a hit, or swing for the fences.
In that respect it is something of a cerebral battle, trying to out think the opponent, which of course mimics what the pitcher and batter do on an actual field.
Players utilize one card per at-bat. A result card reveals the action, and play continues.
The game board allows players to track what is happening in the game, or they can use the score pads.
Pizza Box Baseball has a nice scalability factor too. There are four strategy levels allowing players to add game elements such as stealing, bunting, pitchouts, different hitter strengths, pitchers that get tired, and other real game factors.
The different levels accomplish two things. To start with, it allows one to adjust the game to the time available. Only have a half-hour, go basic and you can likely whiz through a game.
It also allows casual fans to keep things basic, while letting true baseball nuts add in all the details to bring the game closer to the feel of a real game.
The head-to-head nature of the pitcher/batter confrontation is captured well here, and baseball fans will enjoy the detail.
An excellent baseball sim’ for boardgamers to enjoy.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



If you are a regular reader you will probably recall that cribbage is a favoured game of this writer. It would easily be in the top-10-15 games for passing away a rainy or cold afternoon, or evening.
Now when you find a popular game such as cribbage — it is certainly popular when you realize it is one of only about three card games which hold annual tourneys locally, the others being whist and bridge that I know of — you are going to have those trying to improve on it.
It might be argued that it isn’t possible to improve on cribbage, a game that has depth, and great mechanics, yet is very easy to learn. I would have to say I am among those. Classics are rarely made better by modern age game designers.
That all said Ken S. Slaker took a pretty good shot at upgrading cribbage with his 1988 release CribbGolf. It’s not so much that Slaker made the game better, but he overlaid a theme which simply adds a layer of fun to the game that is a nice change of pace from standard cribbage.
The game is rather ingenious in its approach, which is basically to combine cribbage with elements of golf.
As far as the card playing aspect of the game it is cribbage as normal, which is nice since there are no new rules regarding how one plays cards to learn and adapt too.
Where the game is different is in the board players peg on. The board displays an 18-hole golf course.
The golf-course board changes the strategy of the game because you are no longer pegging to reach the final hole, but instead are pegging to record a golf score on each hole.
Therefore taking points that you would normally take without thinking in regular cribbage must now be weighed carefully since taking points at certain times can land you in a sand trap, or water hazard, costing you a stroke to your game.
In that respect it does help a bit if you understand golf scoring, although you can pick up that aspect of the game very easily.
The board in the version I have, a Yuletide gift from my daughter, from JK Games, is well made, but it is large. It measures 10 X 22-inches, so it doesn’t store real conveniently. It would help if it folded, but that is a minor complaint.
The golf course design is well-done with greens, sand and water features, and trees. It looks a lot like the design one might see of a course on a website promoting the facility.
The game comes with a thick pad of scoresheets. A little hint, put one in a plastic wrap and save it so you can run copies when needed. They aren’t available in stores that I know of.
There is a well-detailed rulebook, and a large reference sheet, including larger type, which is an excellent tool for people learning the game.
As an alternative to cribbage, this is about as good as I’ve found so far, and I have tried several. The excellent board and combining of cribbage and golf make it a winner in my books. One to add to any cribbage lover’s game collection.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TRI-CROSS


When you look at boardgames, you often see games created which are in many ways hybrids in as much that they bring elements of various games together in a new one.
Tri-Cross, which was first released in 1986, does that.
There are elements which will remind people a little bit of chess, although that can be said about a lot of games, as well as a taste of bluffing as in poker, and a board movement design that has a Chinese Checkers feel.
Tri-Cross is an abstract strategy game played on three rows and columns that cross in the centre, with both sides moving toward the centre which is the hotly contested area of the game.
The winner is the player who controls the center for four consecutive turns. Think King-of-the-Mountain.
Players begin with hidden pieces -- that is their actual strength is hidden from the opponent. It’s actually hidden from the player too, so keep a sharp memory of how you lay out your pieces at the start of the game. The hidden element has been described as a poker-like element, which is one vision of it, although it’s not quite that mechanism either. The actual strength of pieces are revealed when they come in proximity to initialize a challenge between players. The greater strength makes a capture.
Equal strength confrontations freeze peoples.
The board is solid, the pieces are quality-bakelite-like ones that is a definite bonus. The little velveteen bag is a nice accessory.
A laminated rules tutorial is a terrific idea that most games should mimic. It’s a real plus for learning a game.
The rule set has some nice illustrations to help the learning curve.
Tri-Cross is designed primarily as a two-player game, and that is where it is best. Most abstract strategy games excel head-to-head, and Tri-Cross is an abstract, albeit with the early hidden strength element.
That said Tri-Cross does have rules for three and four players, with the pieces included to make that possible.
A game which can be learned rather easily, and plays quickly, with good components, Tri-Cross is a solid addition to a games library.
You can check out the game at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



When it comes to a war game, the one most people are at least somewhat familiar with is Risk. The game is sort of a war game light, with the actual strategies of war having limited impact on how you play the game.
The popularity of Risk has of course meant there have been a few variations made over the years, in particular Lord of the Rings, and a Star Wars: Clone Wars versions have drawn some definite attention because of their tie-in to popular books and movies.
The entire Risk franchise also had a facelift with a revision in 2008. The revision targeted the length of a game, which with the original could drag out with eliminated players left bored by the wayside.
Following the revision, and the idea of tying Risk to popular franchises for marketing USAopoly released Risk: Halo Wars in 2009. The game highlights gaming pieces and a map connected to the mega-popular video game Halo.
This variant is played with three to five players.
Risk: Halo Wars allow players to command one of three factions (the UNSC, the Covenant, or the Flood) and battle for supremacy of Arcadia. You actually get two UNSC armies and two Covenant armies which means with five players there is a team aspect.
The board, which looks a lot like an earth map turned upside down, features 42 territories and six sectors. There are 250 plastic playing pieces which represent the three factions in small molded representations of infantry, tanks, etc.
Halo Risk uses the new Hasbro rules which allows for three levels of game play (basic, advanced, and classic) depending on the skill level and desired playing time of the players, another major aspect of the major game revision.
There are a couple of major pluses with Halo Risk. On one hand big Halo fans are likely to like the laid on theme, and even without a connection to the video game the unique factions and game board are a nice change from standard Risk.
And, the ability to play a team version requiring co-operation, while not for everyone, is a definite plus because it creates gaming options.
This version of Risk has some other nice mechanic additions that are a bonus too. It incorporates a way to double weight certain random spots on the board which alters the typical drawback of Risk where a game can bog down at some points on the board.
Leaders which come in and out of play quite easily for added firepower are a nice touch too, and some special abilities add power and options without unbalancing the base game.
If you like Risk, the Halo variant offers enough differences to enjoy. If you have never played Risk, this actually offers enough bells and whistles to be a better first choice than the traditional version. One to check out for sure.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- WHERE THERE IS DISCORD: War In The South Atlantic

WHERE THERE IS DISCORD: War In The South Atlantic

If one were to connect the word epic to a game it might well fit Where There Is Discord: War in the South Atlantic (WTID).
Designer Daniel Hodges has certainly created a detailed wargame with WTID, focusing in on a rather recent conflict which at the time drew lots of press coverage, and then has tended to be forgotten.
It was in May 1982, when a missile fired from the Sea Harrier of Royal Naval Air Squadron struck a Mirage III, an Argentinian aircraft, starting the The Falkland/Malvinas War.
The war would last for only 45 days pitting the armed forces of the United Kingdom and Argentina against one another in a battle to determine who had the right to govern the Falkland Islands.
The game is published by Fifth Column Games, and is a brand new offering to wargamers, having been released only last year. Their website explains the game. “In this solitaire military simulation boardgame, you have the opportunity to recreate those fateful summer days, commanding the British Task Force as it attempts to defend itself from concerted attacks by Argentine air and naval forces, and mount a successful amphibious landing on the disputed islands.”
That the game is a solitaire one will appeal to many since it can be difficult to find players into detailed war simulation boardgames, especially one as detailed as WTID.
The game comes in a huge box filled with detailed goodies for the serious wargamer.
This is a game where you need to clear off the kitchen table, a rather large kitchen table actually, to lay out the game board, which by the way is thick and should last for decades.
There are a handful of dice, and lots of cardboard markers to mimic troops, plus charts to cross reference to see what the dice rolls mean as the game is played.
The game also comes with two true gaming gems; a detailed rulebook that while daunting if not into detail wargames, is extremely well laid out.
An Intelligence Briefing Booklet with great illustrations provides even more detail for a full game experience.
The game is suggested to play out in four hours, I did mention it was detailed, but there is no way you’ll do it that quick the first time out of the box unless you are a fanatic wargamer, and even then it will be a challenge.
This is a game with a blizzard weekend fill-in feel to it. You start on Saturday and wind-up sometime Sunday after a long, detailed wargame experience. That detail is both the game’s strength, it really gives you a feeling of controlling the nuances of war, yet those details will mean casual gamers shy away from the experience.
Check out this great game at
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 24, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



If a game was simply enjoyed based on the box, Dragons of Kir would be among my favourite games.
The box shows a quartette of Oriental-style dragons, one in each corner; a red one, green, yellow and blue. It’s a mythical-theme and being dragons, I was immediately attracted.
The game was released in 2005 from One Eye Productions and give these guys credit they’ve learned a bit about quality along the way.
The game, as you might expect, has dragons, and initially they we paper that had formed into sort of cubes. The game also has tents which are the attack goal of the dragons, and again they were little folding paper creations. They were flimsy, and really detracted from the aesthetics of the game.
The company has recently released a components upgrade, issuing wooden tents and wooden blocks with an imprint of a dragon on them. I might prefer a sculpted dragon, but the upgrade certainly enhances the game.
The wood expansion set also adds rules for three and four players.
The game was designed by Dove Byrne and Jason Conkey. Dragons of Kir is a themed version of Darter, which won the 2006 Origins Vanguard Innovative Game Award at Gama. Dragons adds some new tiles and different rules.
You can check out the game at The site explains the game as “(a) new and exciting, fast-paced, strategy board game from Future Magic Games. The object of the game is to strategically place tiles that deflect one of the four marauding dragons into your opponent's war tent, while defending your own.”
The game is basically an abstract strategy revolving around tile placement. Players strategically place tiles which deflect one of the four constantly moving dragons into your opponent’s war tent. At the same time you have to balance the attacking with the use of tiles to defend your own tent.
The tiles, made of heavy cardboard, represent the forces of nature and the forces of man, which when placed interact with the dragons and influence their movement.
I must also mention the board, again very nice, with a big dragon on it.
The game plays quickly, and is a balancing act between attacking an opponent by altering the course of a dragon toward an opponent’s tent, and keeping them away from your tent.
There is of course some luck, depending on the tiles still in-hand, but overall there is a solid strategic feel.
A very solid offering that is a quick, fun board game.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 17, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Chess variants have always been an area of interest. The basic western version of the game is a favourite, and I am always excited when someone comes up with an intriguing variant.
Renniassance Chess was invented in 1980 by Eric V. Greenwood, and it certainly fits the bill as far as being an intriguing take on chess by expanding the familiar game.
Correctly spelled, the game would be called Renaissance Chess; Greenwood, however, thought it would be fun to deliberately misspell it as Renniassance. The game is also commonly referred to as Rennchess.
Rennchess is a big board variant, played initially on a 12X10 board, although reference to play on a 12X12 board certainly exists. My suggestion is to look for a 12X12 board to use, since it allows for play either way.
Being played on a large board, Rennchess boosts the power quotient on the board in terms of the pieces in play.
Instead of the familiar 16-piece array, Greenwood more than doubled the number. Each player has 34 pieces in play.
With 34 pieces per side, this is not a chess variant where you can go down to the local board game store and buy a set.
The alternative is to turn this game into something of a craft project and put your own together.
The best way to get started on such a project is to buy multiple sets to begin the process of creating the various hybrid pieces present in Rennchess. There are lots of cheap sets out there to work with, which is good since you reasonably need four sets to get all the pieces made. You can find suitable sets for as little as two - three bucks. Don’t over spend because you aren’t likely to play Rennchess everyday unless you have a regular chess bud who likes variants.
Recognize such sets will be made of hollow plastic. That is good since you can cut them up with a sharp modeling knife, or small saw.
The bad news is such sets are weightless, and chess sets need weighted pieces for the tactile enjoyment of the game. The solution, head down to the hardware store with the various pieces in your pocket. You’ll likely be able to find nuts that fit in the base. Five bucks should just about cover it. A bit of hot glue holds them in place.
The cheaper sets also tend to be easily knocked over. A wargaming store is the place to buy some plastic bases that you can glue the pieces to add stability. It will add about $20 bucks to the set cost, but it adds to the set.
I was also able to insert small washers inside the bases, which added just a bit more weight. In retrospect the amount of work may have been greater than the affect of the added weight though.
Back to the piece creation.
Some, such as the Archbishop which moves as either Bishop or Knight, or the Nobleman which moves as either Rook or Knight, the process is easy. You cut the top off the rook, or bishop, and glue to the top of a Knight piece. Superglue, or model glue gets the job done.
Other pieces, such as the Squire, which moves one or two squares in any direction, and may jump over other pieces, require some additional creativity. One handy and quick way to change the look of a piece can be to cut off the top of a bishop, and replace it by gluing a simple push pin on top.
That was the process I used for the Fox, clipping the top off a pawn and replacing it with a push pin top. The Fox moves one square horizontally or vertically.
Using the push pin option does mean a repaint at the end, but that helps create a unified finish, and if you use the bases, it will be a must.
A finishing touch is to glue some felt on the bottom of the bases, and trim.
You end up with a very functional, solid looking, and reasonably well-weighted Rennchess set.
You might want to snap a few digital pictures and create a cheat sheet so the variant pieces are quickly recognized, and the associated moves understood.
The creation of the set is as much fun as the game, and in the case of Rennchess there is a lot to explore game wise too. The wide piece array, and large board offer a very different ‘feel’ from the traditional game.
Do note this is a variant for true chess lovers, since games can be quite involved and take considerable time to complete.
In the end a great project in terms of creation, and a deep game to play.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



While very few admit to it, the world is populated by thousands who tune into the weekly soap opera world of professional wrestling.
I know I grew up watching Stampede Wrestling on Saturday afternoons with my dad, and yes, I still watch Monday Night Raw and TNA Wrestling on occasion. There, I admitted it.
So, if you are one of the myriad of wrestling fans out there, and you also happen to like boardgames, then you may have wondered if you could combine the two interests?
Well there are some wrestling games out there, and one of the neatest little offerings is Legends of Wrestling Card Game from Filsinger Games Company.
Creator Tom Filsinger has found a niche area of wrestling to use as a base for his game, one which draws from the old days of the game before Vincent Kennedy McMahon owned almost the entire wrestling universe.
So if you are under the age of about 30, and only a casual wrestling fan, the wrestlers depicted in this game will be a mystery to you.
But, as an old Stampede Wrestling fan, the game is populated with familiar names. There are 24-wrestlers in the game including the likes of Bobo Brazil, Killer Kowalski, Gorgeous George, Harley Race, and Ox Baker.
For the younger fan, there are some faces that still play a role in the game such as Ted DiBiase, Sandman, Jimmy Snuka, and the Road Warriors; Hawk and Animal.
The nice thing is that each wrestler has a card, with a solid black and white illustration of the legend. That is a cool feature of the game.
From there the game is a rather simple one based on charts and dice roles, a system used best in the classic Strat-O-Matic Baseball.
In LofW players each select a combatant and you start rolling dice, and following the charts to see what transpires.
Initially it may seem a tad tedious searching charts, but once you get a few games under your belt you get to know many of the results by heart, and away you go.
Because the game is randomized by the dice rolls, the game plays as a solo game too. For the true fanatic you can wrestle-off your favourites anytime you want. Not a bad way to kill some time.
The game has basic rules, then once comfortable, adds a layer of complexity with an advanced ruleset, which is a nice touch since it allows you to grow into the game.
In the back of the rulebook are rules for special matches, including the Texas Death Match, Cage Match, Brass Knuckles Match, Tag-Team and Battle Royal. Now really, how neat is that. Ox Baker and Killer Kowalski in a brass knucs match — sweet indeed.
The game debuted in 2002, and has been supported by a range of expansion cards available at
I still want a Canadian expansion. Imagine a Stampede Wrestling set; Archie ‘The Stomper’ Gouldie, Dan Kroffat, Gene Kiniski, Big John Quinn, Don Leo Jonathan, Abdullah the Butcher and Haystacks Calhoun, as a new offering.
As is though, this is a simple, yet fun wrestling simulation, that fans are going to enjoy.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 3, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review -- AXIOM


Games are always interesting when they offer challenges you don’t usually have to deal with.
It’s a case where as much as I love chess, and its vast array of variants, they are generally played on a board that varies only in size. The result is a ‘sameness’ to game play.
There are however games which change things up for players, and Axiom is one of those.
Axiom was invented by Michael Seal and first released back in 1988. For a game which has been around for two decades and is as interesting as this one, it should be far more widely known.
Of course that is sort of the curse of being a game from a small indie publisher such as Abstract Planet. It is hard for small companies to do the promotion and distribution to create ‘the buzz’ to really stimulate interest. As a result even among avid gamers such as those on the Board Game Geek site ( there are only about 150 members who have clicked that they own this game. That does surprise me in a sense because I do see Axiom as what might be termed ‘a gamer’s game’.
A gamer’s game is one of those which looks good, has a unique feature, or two, and has quality components. Axiom hits on all three.
So let’s start with the rather unique feature. Axiom is a two-player abstract strategy game which plays in three dimensions. The play area starts out as a square of twelve cubes. Each player has two pawns (called Sceptres) which set on the top of the cubes as the game begins.
The pawns then move across the faces of the cubes, with the object of moving your sceptre onto any cube occupied on another side by the opponent’s sceptre. Such a move wins the game.
As you might envision the sceptres end up on the sides of the cubes. In early versions they sort of clicked into position from what I’ve read, and didn’t always come out of the recessed hole on the cube easily. That system has been replaced by a system of magnets and works very slick now.
Having to get your mind off a flat board and into the mode of envisioning moves around a stack of 3D cubes is the interesting challenge. It is something you do not generally have to think about when playing boardgames, and is thus rather refreshing.
The pieces are plastic, and should last, which is great.
And the game looks fantastic. While there are other colour options, the black and white version is simply dramatic looking. It is classy and eye-catching.
The game is small and compact too. The box is nothing special. The game sort of begs for a nice wooden box, although that would add too much to the cost. Still, one day I might have to have one made. Yes this game is that interesting. I find its classic look, and game play a rather special combination which would put this game easily in the top-50 abstracts out there.Check it out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 27, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- VERSUS


Well regular readers will know I have a huge soft spot for abstract strategy games so I was immediately interested in Versus designed by Michel Pinon, and released in 2008 by Asyncron Games.
The game is rated for those eight and up, is for two players, with a suggested playing time of 20-to-30 minutes. The playing time of course will vary with the skill of the players and the time they take to formulate moves, but at about half-an-hour it’s a game that promises some thinking without eating away hours.
Regular readers will also know I am partial to wooden games. The look and feel of wood means quality in my mind.
So, when I had the opportunity to pop the box on Versus, I was immediately impressed. To begin with the box is a sturdy one, which bodes well for keeping everything pristine over the long haul.
And, you will want to keep this game in nice shape, because everything inside the box screams quality. The board play area is made up of hexagons, which are painted onto a thick, round, wooden board.
The pieces too are wood, one player’s stained darker than the others. There’s even a small leather drawstring pouch to hold the pieces. It all comes across as very classy. I like that in a game.
Now one problem, and I suspect that will be rectified as the game breaks into North America in a more significant way, but there are no English rules in the game box. Today though that is less of a problem since the Internet is such an amazing resource. You can find the English version at They are in a handy .pdf format which prints easily.
The game revolves around trying to get your pieces to a specific spot on the board.
There two distinct type of pieces, pawns and Versus pieces. The Versus pieces when moved actually attract pawns on the board, altering their position if they fall within the rules of movement.
Pawns are interesting too in that they can be flipped, and in so doing they come under the influence of the other player.
The ability to influence board position, and to switch pawns, are two highly interesting strategic mechanics of the game.
The game is different enough from other strategic games out there, with different enough mechanics, that is should provide fresh challenges for diehard strategic gamers.
That said, Versus is not really a game for casual gamers. You must like the genre of the game in this case.
If you are a strategic gamer, then the ruleset and game quality make Versus a hard one to pass up.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 20, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



It’s hard not to like a game that can basically be carried in your pocket.
Knockabout has such simple game components that it really comes down to a game board printed on a piece of cloth about the size of an old-fashioned mens’ handkerchief, and then add a fistful of dice.
The game is nice since it plays with only two players, but also accommodates three, which is actually rather rare in the gaming world. Unfortunately the three-player variant rules are not in the game package, but can be found at
Each player starts out with a handful of dice, a selection of four, six, and eight-sided dice. Those dice are laid out on the board in predetermined positions.
From there, Knockabout which was created by Greg Lam in 2001, and is produced by Pair-of-Dice Games comes down to a strategic game that is reminiscent of sumo wrestling in the most abstract fashion.
Players are trying to push the other players pieces (dice) off the hexagonal board. On a turn a player is allowed to move one dice. The dice move in a straight line as far as the number on their top face.
The fun starts when a dice bumps up to a second dice during its move. Whenever a die hits another piece your own or the opponent's, it stops, and the hit die continues the first pieces move. As an example you have an eight-sided dice showing a six. You begin to move it and in two spaces it collides with an opponents dice. Your piece stops, the six-sided dice must now continue the move, in this case going four spaces.
It is of course possible to set off a chain reaction involving multiple dice of both your own, and your opponents.
The last die to move as a result of the collision gets rerolled. That is the extent of the randomness the dice impart on the game, and in this case the changing values add a lot to the game.
Pieces knocked into the outer ring are eliminated from the game. Dice pushed into the gutter can prevent future pieces from being knocked into the same spot.
In two-player action the first player to knock five out of his opponent’s nine pieces into the outer ring wins.
The game can be learned within minutes — the rules are on one side of a single sheet of paper — and that is a good thing in terms of introducing new players.
This is not an overly deep strategy game, but it plays in about 20-minutes so as a coffee-time filler it’s a great option.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 13, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



One of the standard games types is of course those played with cards. Those games get split into two distinct types in my mind, those using the standard 52-card deck we see in games such as the classic cribbage, and those which work with cards designed specifically for the game, Magic the Gathering being a prime example.
Soul Hunters fits into the second category.
As a card game, one of the key elements is of course the cards. Often gamers are first attracted by the artwork on the cards, which is unusual given that the old standard card deck is ultra boring in terms of art. Again referring back to the classic MtG, expansion sets are often measured in players’ minds as much for the art as the card play.
With Soul Hunters you sort of expect some rather dark art, and you get the feeling that is what they were going for with cards such as Touch of Death and Pestilence, Death and Devil’s Minion. However, they really come up short in terms of creating visually striking cards. They use basically black line art that lacks definition, and when applied over the dark red cards, and the green cards, it really gets lost. The game could be more appealing with better art.
Designed by Ville Hankipohja and published by Tuonela Productions Ltd., Soul Hunters is a pretty straight forward game for two to four players.
From the rule set we get a taste of the game’s theme. “Souls are the most valuable commodity in the universe and by ancient laws the one who possesses the most souls, is declared the ruler of all.
“Your task is to use powerful characters to lure souls on your side. Choose your alignment, play your cards right and you just may become the sovereign ruler of the universe.”
So the game is one where you are trying to capture souls. That is accomplished by either being very good or very bad.
Players take on one of the title characters, a soul hunter, which represent one of six different alignments or factions. By focusing on a single alignment, players receive a bonus on their influence, which is then used to lure souls.
You can collect negative or positive influence, the good or the bad, depending on which characters you use.
A turn consists of acquiring one card and then playing one. There is some potential to form a strategy as you play cards, but ultimately the game is pretty random. Now that is not necessarily bad, since if you like card games you are OK with the draw of the cards often swaying fate in a game.
The game rules are pretty straight forward, which is a positive.The game box suggests an hour to play, which is a bit long for a card game that is not particularly deep in tactics.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan 6, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Games which have a connection to our home province of Saskatchewan in some way are rather rare to say the least.
Only a handful of games that I have come across have been created here, or even by Saskatchewan people who have moved.
Fewer still use Saskatchewan as the location for their games.
So Prairie Aflame immediately drew attention. It is a genre game, one of a huge array of historic war games out there. For those unfamiliar with such games, they are generally designed around a particular historic battle, or era, allowing the players to recreate the events.
In this case Prairie Aflame centres on the Riel Rebellion of 1885, or more accurately the Northwest Rebellion as the history books tend to note it.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was an uprising by the Métis people of the District of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel against the Dominion of Canada, perpetrated by the Métis’ contention the Canadian government had failed to address concerns for the survival of their people a position which had really carried forward from the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870.
The Métis forces had some skirmish successes at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion resulted in the destruction of the Métis forces at Batoche (now an excellent historic site), and Riel was later hanged as a traitor, a position which has really softened these days with Riel being seen as a leader fighting for his people’s rights.
As a gamer, it is quite exciting to unfold a map and see a map of the Prairie region as the play area of a game. In this case the map extends from Fort McLeod south of Calgary, north to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan and east to a line just past Regina, Humboldt and Prince Albert. Sadly Yorkton is not on the map folks.
The game, like most war scenario games, comes with cardboard punch outs signifying forces, including those representing historic personages including Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Poundmaker, Big Bear and General Frederick Middleton.
The pieces are small, so get a zip lock bag and be careful to preserve them.
Then there is a 21-page rule book, which includes a number of scenarios, including the Battles of Duck Lake, Fish Creek, Cut Knife Hill and of course Batoche.
Other than that you need a few dice, and away you go.
On one website I did note a player’s comment suggesting when they played out an historical scenario they found it unbalanced in favour of Government forces. As I recall from my school history, the Metis and First Nations led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont really had very little chance of victory especially at Batoche.In fact, as I recall vaguely from discussion in history class with teacher Ted Degenstein, Dumont realized a face-to-face battle strategy was not going to work and argued for more of a guerrilla hit-and-run philosophy against General Middleton’s troops crossing the Prairies. This is a game which is for war buffs, or people interested in Saskatchewan history. It is not a game to be played for casual fun by gamers just looking to kill some time. That is not a bad thing though. The game covers an important battle in not only Saskatchewan, but Canadian history, and it is great to see someone recreate it as a war game, in this case the credit goes to game designer Mark Woloshen and Khyber Pass Games, which sadly has just recently gone out of business.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 30, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KEY LARGO


Key Largo is a game notable for a sad reason.
The game was created by Paul Randles, best known for the earlier game Pirate’s Cove. Key Largo was the designer’s final game before passing away in 2003 of pancreatic cancer.
The game was further developed by Mike Selinker and Bruno Faidutti, and was initially released by Tilsit Editions in French, German, and Italian in 2005. Titanic Games made it available in English for the first time, with an all-new graphic design and pieces, with Paizo Publishing now involved as well.
Key Largo has a fun theme as far as games go. Players basically travel around the Florida Keys in 1899, seeking out treasures in shipwrecks around the island. Before a hurricane hits, players need to search the many shipwrecks and sell the lost treasures to the island denizens for as much cash as possible.
Sounds like a fun little idea.
And, for the most part it kind of works too.
The game board is functional for this game designed for three to five players, although it does remind me of a board designed more your younger kids, than for adult gamers.
The playing pieces are large, colourful sailing ships, which is both a nice touch, and are easily identifiable and moved on the play area.
The rest of the pieces, such as divers, hoses, tridents, and weights, are just thick cardboard punch-outs. They work, but are not particularly special.
The game does rely heavily on cards, with action and treasure decks an integral part of the game. Here the art work is very good, using a sort of whimsical pirate style.
The game also has paper money. I’ve never been a fan of games using paper money. The bookkeeping aspect detracts from the game for me.
The rules are well laid out with a few ‘art’ pieces thrown in for colour, using the same nice art style from the cards.
The action cards of course let you as a player do certain things, ranging from taking tourists out to ‘go dolphin watching’ to heading to the tavern, or shopping for equipment.
Treasure cards, well those are pretty straight forward.
The game is played over a finite series of turns, with the winner being the one with the most money.
Key Largo settles out being a wealth building game, with that wealth derived from the luck of the draw of cards, plus some added influence about how you use the resources you have.
This is not a particularly deep and involved game. It’s light. It has some fun to it, although it isn’t a game that will come to mind to be the first game played. You aren’t likely to complain about having to play a game on occasion, but you won’t be begging for a game either.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 23, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada